Efforts are underway on a number of fronts in Bar Harbor to encourage greater community involvement in town affairs. While some, such as a push to encourage greater civility in public discourse, hold promise, others are more hollow exercises.
Take, for example, the call to form a residents’ association following the recent ferry terminal rezoning vote. The antitown side lost despite spending tens of thousands of dollars on newspaper, radio and direct mail advertising to convince voters their vision was the best. In a vote with a respectable turnout, opponents still lost by a margin of 3 to 2.
Those on the losing side, however, seem to suggest most residents lacked enough information to make an informed decision. Yet nothing in the result suggested that a majority of residents somehow were unaware of the finer points of the debate.
Accepting that gracefully, and working towards making sure whatever is built at the former ferry terminal addresses as many concerns raised by opponents as possible, would be much more constructive.
Criticizing the motivations of the Town Council is particularly disheartening. The remedy for changing the politics already exists, as it has for decades: field your own candidates. But the filing of lawsuits, circulation of petitions and other backdoor methods to achieve results, without a majority of the voters, drains a community of its confidence.
Suggestions that Bar Harbor needs a “residents’” association to advance issues important to year-round homeowners ignore the obvious.
The town already has a massive “association,” one with more than 4,000 registered members. Everyone signed up to vote has a direct say in how the town is run and in choosing its leaders. They make a difference by attending public meetings and voting on local issues.
Are such divisive efforts being pitched because of a breakdown in the system? Or, more simply, did the system work perfectly well but some people refuse to accept “no” for an answer?